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Pollock’s Pre-Drip Period ‘The Blue Unconscious’ to Highlight Sotheby’s Auction

by Special to WorthPoint (03/22/13).

Jackson Pollock’s “The Blue Unconscious” is estimated to bring between $20 and $30 million when it crosses the block at Sotheby’s. The monumental work will be shown at Sotheby’s Los Angeles galleries from March 22-24 ahead of exhibitions in London and New York prior to the May 14 auction.

NEW YORK – “The Blue Unconscious,” a monumental canvas painted by Jackson Pollock in the critical year of 1946—just prior to the establishment of the artist’s celebrated drip paintings—is expected to be a major highlight of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale on Tuesday, May 14.

The appearance of the work on the market comes just months after Sotheby’s set a new Pollock auction record with “Number 4, 1951,” which sold for $40,402,500 in November 2012, besting the presale estimate of $25 to $35 million. “The Blue Unconscious” is estimated to bring between $20 and $30 million. It will be shown in Sotheby’s Los Angeles galleries from March 22-24 ahead of exhibitions in London and New York prior to the May auction.

Pollock executed “The Blue Unconscious” in the famed Long Island barn studio he established after moving to East Hampton with his wife, Lee Krasner, in 1945 to escape the pressures of the New York City art world. The canvas has remained in the same private collection for nearly 50 years, having last appeared on the market in a 1965 auction at Parke-Bernet.

Pollock is widely recognized as a towering and transformative figure in mid-20th century art. By 1946, he was flourishing at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century and was at the forefront of the creation of the New York Abstract Expressionist movement. Paintings such as “The Blue Unconscious” embody Pollock’s quest to integrate imagery with abstraction during this watershed era of reinvention that saw him gain recognition as a modern master on par with the European artists of the day. The artist’s celebrity and acclaim grew throughout the late 1940s as he took his place as the standard bearer for American art on the international stage.

In the fall of 1945, Pollock and Krasner relocated to East Hampton on Long Island. Beginning in spring of 1946, Pollock worked feverishly on two series of paintings as he prepared for his fourth and final one-man exhibition at Art of This Century, scheduled to open Jan. 14, 1947.

The “Accabonac Creek” series—named for the harbor and waterway that could be seen from his Long Island property—was executed in the makeshift studio in the upstairs bedroom of his home. For the execution of the “Sounds in the Grass” series, which includes “The Blue Unconscious,” Pollock moved out to his newly-renovated barn studio in the summer of 1946, which would be the site of his greatest breakthroughs toward his signature style. The “Sounds in the Grass” canvases are triumphant examples of Pollock’s complete melding of figuration and painterly abstraction, with early “all-over’’ compositions of swooping and colorful brushwork.

In the monumentality of the canvases, one can feel how physicality abounds in Pollock’s thickly applied and gestural brushwork. When his canvases moved to the floor of his Long Island barn studio in 1946 and 1947, the exuberance, daring and sheer painterly verve that coursed through paintings such as the present work gave birth to the cataclysmic enamel drip paintings that followed in the coming months.

Of the seven works in the “Sounds in the Grass” series, five are in the collections of major museums including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Tel Aviv Museum and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Additionally, in the critical year of 1946, Pollock executed only seven paintings on a monumental scale (larger than 50 inches in either direction); two are in private collections, including “The Blue Unconscious,” which measures 84 inches by 56 inches. The others are all in institutions: three in the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation, Venice, and one each at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

“The Blue Unconscious” was previously owned by the esteemed Belgian collector, Philippe Dotrement, and last appeared on the market in a 1965 auction of his collection at Sotheby’s predecessor firm, Parke-Bernet. It was acquired from that sale by the present owner.

For more information about “The Blue Unconscious” or other items in the Contemporary Art Evening Sale, visit the Sotheby’s website.

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